[Recently I attended a gathering of journalists who have all covered poverty extensively, including reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other distinguished outlets, as well as several university professors.
I asked several of them to look at this site and the Grady poverty tutorials, to see if they had any helpful thoughts. I’ll share their viewpoints as posts in Tips and Tools.]
Journalists have to slice and dice complex subjects into readable bits; that’s the nature of the beast. But in doing so, we have to avoid myopia.
Pulitzer-winning journalist David Shipler, who wrote the 2005 book “The Working Poor,” suggested we think about “drawing clearer connections among disparate problems of poverty, to avoid the silo effect.”
Poor housing can lead to problems in both mental and physical health, for example–children’s asthma is exacerbated by dust mites, mold, roaches, etc.– which in turn can lead to emergency room visits that can be billed if you don’t have insurance, which in turn can lead to a damaged credit rating and higher interest payments on credit cards and car loans.
In The Working Poor I wrote about Lisa Brooks, who endured just that chain reaction. High housing costs for families without public housing or Section 8 also squeeze food budgets, which are malleable expenditures. I’d think most reporters would be intrigued with these connections, because they don’t occur to most people, and, as we all know, reporters like to break new ground and be counterintuitive when possible.
It might also be useful to think about how to translate the current election campaign into human stories on the ground. For example, we’re locked in a sterile ideological dispute over where the responsibility lies: with society or the individual. You might suggest looking at that difficult question in specific cases to show that nobody fits neatly into one box or the other. NGO workers with experience seem able to get past the ideology. Read more